Trisno Santoso A Piece of The Trail of The Wanderings

Posted on 18 July 2021 at 7:13 AM

Trisno Santoso A Piece of The Trail of The Wanderings

Trisno Santoso: An Artist’s Journey.
TRISNO SANTOSO was born in Cirebon, West Java on July 2, 1930, and given the Chinese name Thio Siaw Tjin. Life's journey into the realm of art took him to travel between Cirebon, Bandung, and Bali. Santoso died on 6 October 2008 and his ashes were returned to Sanur beach in his second hometown on the Island of the Gods.

As a teenager in Cirebon, Santoso became an assistant to his father, Thio Ho Tek, a well-known calligraphy artist. He helped his father prepare materials and painting tools to assist him in his work. Apparently, these daily activities were a rewarding experience of art practice for Santoso. Many Chinese families in the city ordered calligraphy from Thio Ho Tek for places of worship, store brands, funeral banners, and home décor.

Chinese calligraphy usually uses cloth materials with paper, glass, plate, or wood media. For calligraphy on paper Thio Ho Tek added Chinese painting that was a usual component of the finished product.

Many people also sought his advice and consultation, because Thio Ho Tek was also a feng shui expert. He understood the principles that teach people to live in harmony with nature and the environment in order to bring good luck and align negative and positive (yin-yang) energies.

Santoso's insight was broadened by following his father's friendship with the famous painter Lee Man Fong. Thio Ho Tek was a member of Yin Hua, a Chinese painters' association founded by Lee Man Fong in 1955. Talented artists from various cities joined this increasingly brilliant gathering and mounted several exhibitions at home and abroad. After Lee Man Fong was appointed by Bung Karno (the first Indonesian President) to be the painter of the Presidential Palace, this association became stronger and more influential. Unfortunately, due to the September 30th Movement whose failed abortive coup d'état led to the replacement of President Surkano by General Suharto, Yin Hua was disbanded. Some artists who had joined this association include Lie Tjoen Tjay, Chris Suharso, Lim Wasim, Siauw Tik Kwie et al.

In addition to learning from his father, Santoso also gained painting experience from several Yin Hua artists members who often visited his father in Cirebon. Santoso also honed his sketching, drawing, watercolor, and oil painting skills by working on the spot at various areas with the objects he liked most: nature and people's lives.

If you look at the Indonesian name that he chose that is used, Trisno comes from Javanese “tresno”, which means like or love, while Santoso or “Sentosa” means free from all difficulties and disasters; safe and peaceful; prosperous. Apparently, God blessed Trisno Santoso to realize 'love in order to obtain peace and well-being' in Bali. Since coming to Bali in 1957, he promised to stay in Bali (1957-1965), although on his way must pass life in Bandung (1965-1987) and then 1987 back to Bali until the end of life. While living in Bandung, he often went back and forth to Bali to work and distribute paintings to a number of galleries and acquaintances in Bali.

Santoso's work offers a variety of visuals that the public loves because of its satisfying composition and emotional content. Artist Chusin Setiadikara said Santoso was competing with his colleague, painter Rudiyat in Bandung. In several joint exhibitions, Santoso's work gained position and attention from the audience. Meanwhile, during a solo exhibition, Santoso's work always sold out. His paintings decorated the homes of officials and businessmen, including former Vice President Adam Malik who was also a collector.

While in Bandung, Chusin often met Santoso who showed him new works completed in Bali. Although using oil paints in the 1970s-1980s his works still show the influence of Chinese painting. Santoso also showed the skill in playing with lines through his sketch work. Chusin believed that the impressionist influence of Thio Ho Tek and Yin Hua members still showed in his works.

One of Santoso's closest friends in Bali is painter Djaja Tjandra Kirana who met in 1959. The two also befriended Singaporean artist Lim Tze Peng who is now 103 years old. The three of them in the 1980s to 2000s painted together in various locations in Bali such as Kusamba Beach, Tanah Lot, a number of large temples, and Kintamani. Three or four times a year Lim Tze Peng came to Bali and stayed at Santoso's house in Junjungan, Ubud for up to a month. Every day the three would go out to find a scene to paint. There was much discussion while they worked and during meal breaks, while each still concentrated on their own paintings. The three of them discussed many topics such as the object being painted, the traditions of the local people, or the news of their families.

Tjandra said that they left after breakfast and arrived home by sunset. Usually in a day both Lim Tze Peng and Santoso would complete two works. If it was raining the three of them enjoyed painting still life in Santoso's house by utilizing objects that had - tree trunks, statues, flower pots, bottles, fruits etc. Lim Tze Peng's work when painting in Bali can be enjoyed in the book Work Selected by Lim Tze Peng (ArtSafe Pte Ltd, Singapore, 2016) titled Samuan Tiga, Kintamani, Tanah Lot, and Pura Ulundanu.

Tjandra considers Santoso very persistent and tenacious to live such a profession and that he should be an example for young artists today. In Bali Santoso never joined any group or association of artists. Although during many of his exhibiting together in group exhibitions, his open personality always welcomed new friends.

Tjandra does not doubt his friend's love for Bali as expressed in the majority of his works, the natural atmosphere, culture, and activities of Balinese people. Beaches, forests, temples, markets, rice fields, as well as traditional ceremonial activities also dominated Santoso’s canvas. Santoso once stated that he wanted to prove the harmony of color and composition was able to capture the natural beauty of the Island of the Gods that he admired.

Fine art observer Agus Dermawan T. said Santoso highlighted the firmness of polish, stroke, and brush stroke. Santoso's imagery was expressive, running with typical spontaneity. Aspects of the Balinese world were captured and displayed on canvas in tertiary, brown-blackish colors. While light was poured out from the sides of the field of his work as an accentuation that offered the life of his objects. The observation was presented in the exhibition catalog with Trisno Santoso, Sandy Leonardo, Linton Paul, and Tedja Suminar in 1993 at Balai Budaya, Jakarta.

ARMA Ubud Museum owner Agung Rai said he was interested in Santoso's work that explored Bali's nature and culture. Therefore, he did not hesitate to represent Santoso's work through Agung Rai Fine Art Gallery around 1982-1990 which was followed by his brother at Agung Raka Fine Art Gallery.

Agung Rai said that Santoso's work was in great demand for art lovers from abroad, especially paintings with boat objects, fishing activities, and the nature of Balinese villages. Santoso did not just sell works and only release his paintings to people who he believed to have a love of art. Agung Rai called Santoso committed to what was said, fun in making friends, and highly disciplined. In addition to painting, Santoso loved to read, which shaped his views and opened up his horizons.

Agung Rai often invited him to discuss various things outside art. One thing Agung Rai remembers was Santoso's strong desire to have a place to live in Ubud which he managed to get in front of a quiet rice field surrounded by coconut groves in Junjungan, Kutuh Kaja, Ubud.

Henny, Santoso's eldest daughter confirmed this. She also encouraged her father to move from Bandung to Bali around 1987. "For Papie, painting is a joy and a way of life, as well as living in Bali," said Henny. She admired her father who encouraged his three children to study well but never directed them to become a painter, as it was hard life to earn a living. Henny is proud to have an artist father. She still remembers in 1974 her father was invited to an exhibition in Kuala Lumpur to celebrate Indonesian and Malaysian diplomatic relations.

During her high school years, Henny began to understand her father's struggle to raise three children from painting. She remembers that even during these lean times, her parents were always kind and helpful to others in need. Repeatedly her father told her to always do good and be quick to help anyone in need. “If you can't, leave it alone. If you can, help as best you can." Henny still lives by this message and follows their advice now.

When he was at home, after a day of painting in various places, Santoso paid attention to his children. He patiently heard his kids talk about school activities and discuss the difficulties experienced. "Papie cared deeply about us. He instilled useful fundamentals as a provision for living a good and just life" says Henny.

Henny remembers how her father instilled confidence, honesty, discipline, and responsibility. It became the key words to face life, which Santoso said, will be fiercer and more competitive. Santoso encouraged his children to think long and hard before deciding something and be ready to take risks and face the consequences of decisions taken. Henny felt that her father’s lifelong habits and teachings were extremely helpful in her career as an entrepreneur.

Apparently only Lanny Mackenzie inherited her father's artistic talents. Santoso's second child, who lives in Australia, chose fiber art and weaving to channel her creativity. The use of natural materials for the exploration of works, inspired by Santoso who loved nature both through visualization on canvas and daily living practice by gardening, arranging homemade sculptures, and maintaining the beauty of the environment. "I also admire Thio Ho Tek who maintained ancestral traditions through calligraphy artwork," says Lanny.

The vibrant colors in Lanny's work using natural and reclaimed materials were influenced by her memories of living in Bali. They contrast with some of Santoso's work that displays soft and dark colors. In the final years before he died, according to the testimony of Teddy, Santoso's third child, his father tended to use darker colors. Similar to his two older sisters, Teddy also recalled his father's simple admonitions that he felt very deeply and which remain relevant.

The children's memories are the conception and also the desire to document Santoso's work in a retrospective exhibition in 2022. To start the journey, the exhibition "Argya Citra" is held as a tribute from Santoso children and dedication of his artist friends. From this exhibition, it is expected that many new inputs and information about Santoso's work to complete the content of the book which will be launched alongside a single exhibition next year.

Four artists who accompany the exhibition of Santoso's work, namely Djaja Tjandra Kirana (77), IB Putra Adnyana (63), Handy Saputra (57), and Tjandra Hutama (40) agreed to interpret the meaning of friendship and respect (argya) to the artwork (image) of fellow artists. The four of them salute Santoso's determination to pursue a career until the end. His choice to become an artist has set a mark and is now remembered by many, including the four artists.  The five artists all have a love for Bali that is directly or indirectly visualized in the work exhibited this time.

In this exhibition Djaja Tjandra Kirana displays a series of lava stones carried out in the lake area of Batur, Kintamani with Santoso and Lim Tze Peng in 2000. Chunks of lava rock with an orange background is a polarization of sunlight expressed by Tjandra on Chinese paper.

Photographer IB Putra Adnyana, familiarly called Gustra, knows Santoso emotionally through his work. Both of them both love hunting the natural and cultural attractions of Bali in their own way. In this exhibition Gustra displays four works that he calls post-photography. This photo-based visual art is processed by Gustra digitally and printed on canvas as an 'art-print'. He only makes one to eight prints for each work. Gustra added color strokes to reinforce the visual dimension of his works.

Handy Saputra also knows Santoso from the collected works for documentation. Handy includes four works made of ink and Chinese color on a rice paper. Despite hanging out with many artists, he became interested in painting at the instigation of Djaja Tjandra Kirana. After about a year of his first attempts at painting, he went straight to a solo exhibition in February 2020 at Sanur House. That was the beginning of Handy's art practice as a catharsis and filled his free time in between his busy life as an entrepreneur. Now he continues to hone his wildness scraping brushes that give birth to various figures of design in his work.

Photographer Tjandra Hutama respects Santoso who gave birth to many works with natural objects. Tjandra who also likes to record the visual environment expresses that respect through images of nature and its inhabitants who must be treated with respect and compassion. The philosophy of mutual respect and maintaining the harmony of the universe is reflected in “Mahabarata” and “Ramayana” puppet literature. Tjandra combines layers of imagery with increasingly sophisticated photo processing technology.

As a result, Argya Citra is not only an exhibition of fine art, but also celebrates the inner bond of intergenerational artists who reward each other for the spirit of the times that droves them in their respective careers. In the context of the pandemic —which somehow will end—such spirit of togetherness, brotherhood, and cooperation urgently needs to be developed and expanded to various niches of life. [Ema Sukarelawanto, Bali Journalist]